The tournament starts here
Thursday, 24 June, 2010
Frank Lampard believes it's now onwards and upwards for England.
Frank Lampard believes England will now prove to be serious contenders for the World Cup after qualifying for the last 16.
A 1-0 victory over Slovenia in Port Elizabeth, secured by a much-improved team performance and a goal from Jermain Defoe, has transformed confidence in the England camp.
The players were well aware of the criticism back home after they drew 1-1 with the United States and 0-0 with Algeria. But none of that matters now, with excitement building ahead of a knockout game against old rivals Germany in Bloemfontein on Sunday.
And Lampard believes the real action starts right now.
“For everyone who is still in it, the tournament starts here because it’s knockout from now on," he said. "How you played in the group doesn’t win you anything, and it certainly doesn’t get you any credit if you are sent home in the next round.
“But for everybody, it starts here now, it’s pure knockout football and it’s about performing. When you think you are four games away from doing something very special, that can only focus the mind.”
That last sentence will send a shiver down the spine of England fans across the world: four games to win a World Cup.
So no wonder Lampard wasn’t concerned about a late goal from the United States against Algeria, which means England finished second in Group C and will now play Germany rather than Ghana.
“I couldn’t care less about that, it’s hard to try and pick and choose your games at this stage of the tournament,” said the Chelsea player. “We’ll take the bonus of having an extra day’s rest by playing on Sunday.
“I think today’s performance gives us a lot to build on. You have seen it many times with teams in tournaments who start a big cagy and then come strong and come good. We have to try and follow that model and try and keep improving as we go.”